In a landmark vote held today in the Senedd, Assembly Members voted 36 to 14 to approve the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill.
The Bill had been led throughout by Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan, a long-time campaigner for children’s rights and an end to the physical punishment of children.
The new law is expected to come into force in 2022 and will be accompanied by an extensive awareness campaign throughout Wales to inform the public about the changes.
First Minster Mark Drakeford, said
“I’m proud Wales has taken this step and once again put children’s rights at the heart of what we do here in Wales.
“Protecting children and giving them the best start in life should always be our priority.
“Times have changed and there is no place in a modern society for the physical punishment of children. Wales joins Scotland in being the first parts of the UK to see through a positive change to this key piece of legislation.”
Through its journey in the Senedd, a range of organisations, including the Royal College of Paediatrics, Royal College of Nursing, Association of Directors of Social Services, the National Independent Safeguarding Board, Association of Directors of Education and all police forces in Wales, supported the principles of the Bill.
The Bill was also supported by a number of children’s charities, including the NSPCC, Barnardo’s Cymru, Save the Children, Action for Children and Children in Wales. The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has also welcomed the change in the law.
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan said:
“Physical punishment has no place here in Wales – there is no such thing as a loving smack and no justifiable reason for a big person to hit a little person. I’m delighted we have voted to change the law to help protect our children and future generations.
“Independent research suggests attitudes to the physical punishment of children are changing – 81% of parents and guardians of young children in Wales disagreed that smacking a naughty child was necessary and 58% of adults in Wales believe it is already against the law to physically punish children.”
“I have longed campaigned for this change in the law and want to thank all those who have supported this legislation over the years.
“The change in law will bring clarity for parents, professionals and children that physically punishing a child is not acceptable in Wales.”
Welcoming the announcement, Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said:
“I’m so pleased, delighted and proud that Wales has joined dozens of other countries around the world to give children the same protection from physical punishment that adults enjoy. It’s never ok to hit a child – congratulations to the Welsh Government and to members of the Senedd who have prioritised children’s rights by passing this legislation.”